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The Miami Herald—State Won't Seek Death Penalty

Posted on Tue, Jun. 08, 2004


Death-penalty case not seen for mom

A mother accused of killing her toddler daughter will not be charged with first-degree murder, prosecutors indicate.


The young mother accused in last month's beating death of her 3-year-old daughter will not be charged with first-degree murder — which could have exposed her to the death penalty.

At an arraignment today, Miami-Dade County prosecutors are expected to charge Yusimil Herrera, 20, with second-degree murder in the death of Angel Hope, who died May 19. If convicted of the lesser charge, Herrera faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.

The news came several hours before Herrera gave birth to another daughter, Stephanie Angela, at Jackson Memorial Hospital's prison ward D. "Obviously, the state felt they were short of proving first-degree murder and reduced the charges," said Herrera's criminal attorney, Mark Eiglarsh.

"I think things are moving in the right direction."Ed Griffith, spokesman for the state attorney's office, said "reduced" is not the right term.

"Police had probable cause to charge her with first-degree, but we had not charged her yet," he said. A key element in a first-degree charge is premeditation, he added.

Assistant State Attorney Josh Weintraub, lead prosecutor on the case, indicated at a hearing Monday before Circuit Judge Scott Silverman that Herrera would face second-degree, not first-degree, murder charges. Weintraub could not be reached for comment later Monday.

Angel Hope was found battered and bruised in a North Miami apartment on May 16. She never regained consciousness and was taken off life support two days later. The charges against her mother were upgraded to murder.

The girl's death came two months after a judge ruled there were no grounds to take her into protective custody, despite several complaints to the Department of Children and Families that Herrera was abusing the child. Herrera and her sister grew up in the DCF's foster-care system and became the poster child for the failings of Florida's child welfare system. In 1999, a Miami jury awarded the sisters $4.4 million for their suffering, though the award was later reduced to $400,000.

The biological father of Herrera's new baby, Tomas Medrano, wants custody of the child. A court order allowed him to be present at the baby's birth, Eiglarsh said.

Eiglarsh said he also plans to soon file a motion asking Judge Silverman to recuse himself from the case on the grounds the judge's wife is a state attorney's office employee and is supervised by Weintraub.
Griffith said: "Anyone can file a motion for anything."